chapter  14
18 Pages

Past peak oil: political economy of energy crises


Energy is one of modernity’s fundamental mediums and metrics. Defined as the capacity to do work, energy is the productive force at the heart of many economic, social and environmental changes associated with modernist transformation. Social mastery of the earth’s energies is also one of the most potent of modernity’s ideological tropes. Measures of national development centre on the growing availability, accessibility, and efficiency of energy over time: bodily calorie intake, installed electricity generating capacity, kilometers of paved roads – these and others are used to distinguish whether, when, and where modernity’s fuse has been lit. Governments seeking short cuts to modernity plough resources into nuclear power, large-scale hydro, and rural electrification as a means of spreading the light of development across a territory, drawing citizens out of the metaphorical darkness of tradition, and forging a national imaginary (Coronil 1997, Nye 1998).